There are many examples in history of enmity between siblings. Someone was disliked in childhood, someone turned out to be more successful, more talented, more agile, someone was just luckier. But Havilland has a case, indeed, like a match. Each of the sisters wanted to be better than the other and for almost 80 years tried to prove it. The real bone of contention for them was the red carpet.
On July 26, 2020, newspaper covers carried the headline: “Cinema legend Olivia de Havilland dies at age 104 at her home in Paris.” This unexpected news upset many – one of the biggest stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood passed away. What was the life of the actress who played Melanie Hamilton Wilks in the cult novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell?
Olivia was born on July 1, 1916 in Tokyo. Her father worked as a lawyer and professor at the Imperial University, her mother was a theater actress. A pretty girl, the pride and joy of a mother, a real princess – from childhood, Olivia was given a huge responsibility. What can not be said about her younger sister – no less attractive, but, according to her mother, unlucky Joan.
By the way, about the mother. Lillian Fontaine will still have time to act in films and bask in the glory, but while she is busy raising children, for the sake of which she quit her career for a while and moved to California. True, maternal love was not enough in her and it was enough only for Olivia. For her favorite, Lillian did not skimp on expensive outfits and a good education, while Joan had to be content with little. And the matter concerned not only things, but also an attitude that could hardly be called good.
Tired of constant humiliation, Joan runs away to Japan to her father. She will return back in 2 years, when she sees on the poster the face of her sister in an embrace with Errol Flynn, a sex symbol of the 1930s and 1940s and one of the most desirable men of that time. What some actresses have been striving for for years, Olivia got in one go. Samples, contract, the main role in the legendary film Gone with the Wind. Her charisma and femininity fell in love with Hollywood. Then there were “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “The Heiress”, “Hush … hush, dear Charlotte” … In life, everything was given to the girl without much effort – she only had to want to.
Joan simply could not stand aside, she dreamed of drawing attention to herself at least once, so she also went to the cinema and even found a job. Only now the mother was not too happy with her daughter’s initiative. Lillian ordered her to leave this venture and not interfere with her sister. Joan, of course, did not listen to her parent and changed her last name – let there be only Havilland on the screen, and now Joan is Fontaine.
After 4 years of wandering and cheap roles, the aspiring artist finally got the lead role in Hitchcock’s Rebecca, which is included in our selection of the best films of the master of suspense. I didn’t even have to get used to the image of Joan – she was familiar with the fate of a simpleton firsthand. Hitchcock, seeing the dedication of the girl, immediately offered her another role – in Suspicion.
And here is the first Oscar. 1942 Both sisters are nominated and compete for the same category. It’s not Olivia who wins, it’s Joan. She does not accept congratulations from her sister. The same situation repeated itself a few years later. This time, Olivia left with the figurine without even noticing her sister. As it turned out later, the reason for their mutual hatred was not only acting. Joan flirted with Olivia’s husband, writer Markus Godrich. It was rumored that they even had a secret affair. In her own marriages (and she had 2 of them), Fontaine was not happy.
In 1975, her mother died in Olivia’s arms, without admitting that she was proud of her youngest daughter. After that, the sisters did not communicate. The 90s became a black streak for Olivia – at first she buried her son, then the former mud, with whom she maintained friendly relations for many years. At this difficult moment, not only her daughter Giselle was next to the actress, but also her nieces, daughters Joan, who reconciled and talked with their aunt.
But Joan was left alone. Until the last, she fought with her older sister. “I was the first to get married, the first to win an Oscar, and if I die first, then Olivia will be furious – I will beat her here too.” Even in such things, the girl saw rivalry. She passed away on December 16, 2013 at the age of 96. As I wanted – the first.
One way or another, it was their endless enmity that gave the world many wonderful roles in the cinema. Beautiful, talented, completely different – they left their mark on history forever. Like Lupe Velez, who suddenly appeared on the list of the brightest stars in Hollywood and left it just as quickly, as a result of an absurd, tragic accident. You can read about the short life of a diva in the 30s and 40s here.